Obtaining a Greek Passport
Frequently Asked Questions
Obtaining the Greek citizenship and a Greek passport means that you are entitled to reside, work, study and benefit from the legislation of any country that is a member state of the European Union (EU), Greece included. The EU is the largest market in the world, consisting of more than 400 million people and it has reached such a degree of integration and quasi-federal legislation that it may soon become a federation, (the United States of Europe). The citizen of one country already does not need a visa or a work permit to reside in another member state. The citizens of all countries (and the Greeks of course) are not to be discriminated against by the administration and the courts of the other countries. All courts must apply the basic principles of European law and the higher standards of human rights. No government can demand from a citizen of another member state more qualifications than it asks its own citizens, save in cases of public interest. In a nutshell, by obtaining a Greek passport one becomes essentially a European citizen, able to travel and work from one European country to the other, much like an American can do the same things in any state inside the US.
2 What are the advantages of a Greek passport?
The holder of a Greek passport becomes a European citizen. Such a citizen can travel through the borders of the 15 (and soon 25) member states of the EU without the need of a visa, a work permit or a residence permit. He/she has the right to reside in one member state indefinitely, enjoying all the privileges and the social
A European citizen can refer his/her case, in his mother tongue, to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Europe’s supreme court, which is responsible for the uniform application of the European law all over the EU, from Crete and Naples to Edinburgh and Berlin and from London and Thessaloniki to Copenhagen and Amstardam. It is noteworthy that Mr. Skouris, a Greek jurist, has been elected for the next three years president of this prestigious and very powerful Court.
A European citizen can also seek justice to the European Ombudsman, (mediator between private parsons and the European institutions), who also happens to be Greek, Mr. Diamantouros.
The holder of a Greek (and therefore European) passport can write to the agencies of the European Commission, which is a body of 15 Commissioners, who are the Executive of the European Union. Among the 15 Commissioners there is also a Greek, Mrs. Anna Diamantopoulou.
Finally, a European citizen can always refer to the rules of the European Central Bank, (an equivalent of the US Federal Reserve), which governs the monetary and banking system throughout Europe and happens to have a vice president who is also Greek, Mr. Loukas Papadimos.
From the above, we realize that a European citizen can also have a career at the federal agencies of the European Union, which is the governmental bureaucracy of Europe.
3. How do I know if I am entitled to a Greek passport (Greek citizenship)?
One must have at least one ancestor who was born in Greece and therefore was Greek by birth.
4. How can I prove that one of my ancestors was/is Greek by birth?
The ancestor must be registered at the records of the Municipality (City Hall) of a town or village in Greece. Only certificates issued by Greek municipal authorities are accepted. Therefore, a certificate issued by another country stating that the ancestor in question was born in Greece is not enough for the Greek authorities.
5. What else do I need in order to become a Greek citizen?
Apart form the birth certificate (or municipal record) of the Greek ancestor, we need his/her marriage certificate, the birth certificate of their child, etc., until we reach the present applicant. All foreign documents must be officially translated in Greek.
6. Do I have to travel to Greece in order to submit the application?
Not necessarily. All the paperwork can be collected and submitted to the responsible Greek agency via a proxy, who will hold a specific power of attorney.
7. Which is the responsible Greek agency?
If the applicant has only one ancestor who was Greek by birth, the application must be submitted to the General Secretary of the Region (Periferia) of the town where the applicant wishes to be registered. If both parents of the applicant were born in Greece, then the application must be submitted to the local Prefecture (Nomarhia) and in this case the application for a passport is much more simple and the reply usually comes earlier.
8. Where do I translate in Greek the foreign documents?
Foreign (non Greek) documents can be translated at the Greek Consulates around the world. They can also be translated by authorized translators, but in this case the translations may require the Apostile stamp (if the documents originate from the USA, Australia, the UK and some other countries, but it is not required if they originate from Canada). Official translations can also be made in Athens, at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affaires, as well as by Greek lawyers.
9. How long does it take to get a reply by the Greek authorities?
Six to twelve months is an average waiting period for a reply by the Region (Periferia). The simpler cases that are handled by the Prefecture (Nomarhia) are being processed much faster.
10. What may go wrong?
If the documents and the case as a whole has been first reviewed by someone who knows the Greek law, most problems will have been identified and solved before the lodging of the application. The number of applicants is not the same in every Prefecture or Region, and these agencies deal with different numbers of applicants at different times. This means that similar cases may not need the same time to finish.
11. My father or grandfather changed his name. Is that a problem?
It has been quite common for Greeks who immigrated to change their original Greek name. In such a case official proof is required that Mr. John Johnson and Mr. Ioannis Yiannopoulos is the same person. Such proof will usually be the court or administrative decision by which the person changed his name. One should be very careful with middle names and with parents’ names. Many people usually use as their middle name the Christian name of their father and this sometimes confuses the Greek authorities.
12. Are the documents of the Greek Orthodox Church outside of Greece accepted by the Greek authorities?
Usually they are, provided the signature of the orthodox priest who signed the document abroad is certified by the Greek Church in Greece.
13. When I obtain my Greek citizenship, will I have to serve to the Greek Army?
Males of Greek origin who permanently reside outside of Greece do not have to serve to the Greek Army, provided that they do not stay in Greece more than six months within the same calendar year (1st Jan. 31st Dec.). So, even if a male of Greek origin obtains his Greek citizenship, he will not have to serve to the Army, if he does not stay in Greece for more than six months within the same calendar year. He will be able, however to use his Greek passport and stay as many years as he wants in another EU member state. If he resides in Greece for more than six months within the same calendar year, he will automatically become resident of Greece and then he will have to serve to the Greek Army for twelve months. If someone decides that he definitely wants to stay in Greece for more than six months, it is better for him first to declare that he wants to serve to the Army as permanent resident outside of Greece (in that case he will serve 3 6 months maximum), and then stay in Greece permanently.
Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at law, LL.M., in Athens, Greece, specializing in International and European Business Law. For more information about him, see his brief biographical sketch under the HCS section for Contributing Authors at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/christosiliopoulosbio.html. He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives section bearing his name at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveiliopoulos.html. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS
HCS readers may wish to view other articles about Greek property laws and taxes in the Greek Laws and Procedures section of our archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archivegreeklawsnprocedures.html
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